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COVID-19 has already had an enormous impact on consumers and brands. The stay-at-home directives, radical shifts in demand for certain product categories, undersupplied distribution channels, and supply chain difficulties for certain companies have disrupted habitual behaviors and required customers to shop in new ways.
This is significant for brands, especially market leaders in their categories, because humans are cognitive misers, meaning that we use mental shortcuts to guide our judgments and decisions. In terms of purchasing behavior, once a routine in a certain store or preference for particular brand is established, it becomes habitual and is difficult to change. In normal times, gaining consumers’ attention and moving the needle on key consumer-behavior metrics was a costly endeavor and often beyond the budgets and marketing capabilities of many small and midtier brands.
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The current environment offers an unprecedented opportunity for these smaller companies to compete against their more established rivals for exposure, mindshare, product trials, and market share with a new and broader base of potential customers. In this article, we share the findings of our research into what percentage of consumer purchases is vulnerable to substitution and the ways brands can rethink their value propositions to customers in uncertain times.
A Shock to the System
Our research, conducted in late March, two weeks after stay-at-home directives were issued in much of the U.S. (see “The Research”), identified many new patterns in consumer shopping behavior and mindset. Aggregating the findings from our study with top-line observations from other research fielded in the same time period reveals some key findings.
Broad shifts in consumer behavior:
- The location and timing of shopping (whether in person or online).
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